11th May 2023

The Greenwashing Hydra

Have you heard of these 6 new shades of greenwashing?

As a sustainable business owner, you know how important it is to communicate your sustainability efforts to your customers. But you need to make sure that any values you share can be verified to avoid greenwashing; making false or misleading claims about the environmental impact of your product or service. 

Greenwashing is not only unethical but also risky. It can damage your reputation, erode your trust, and expose you to legal consequences. 

Greenwashing is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since the 1960s when some companies started to use environmental slogans and images to appeal to consumers who were becoming more aware of environmental issues. However, as consumers became more savvy and skeptical, greenwashing had to adapt and change its tactics. Today, greenwashing is more subtle and complex than ever before. It’s like a hydra: a mythical creature with many heads that grows two more when one is cut off. 

According to a report by Planet Tracker, six new forms of greenwashing have emerged in recent years, known as the Greenwashing Hydra. 
In this blog post, we’ll explore these six new forms of greenwashing that you need to watch out for and explore how to avoid them in your own business.

The 6 New Shades of Greenwashing

There are many different ways to use storytelling in your business. Videos, when done right, can be a great way to create memorable, shareable stories that your customers will love. Brand films are a great way for your potential customer to get to know you and your business better. They are an easy way to connect with your audience, and videos are far more likely to be shared than any other form of content, helping you communicate your sustainability efforts to your customers in a more impactful way. Below are 5 great video examples of how a brand can use storytelling in their business.

1. Greencrowding

Greencrowding is the belief that you can hide in a crowd to avoid discovery; it relies on safety in numbers. If sustainable policies are being developed, the group will likely move at the speed of the slowest. 

 Greencrowding can be adopted by different groups including governments and environmental alliances. It is a clever strategy as investors and the media are naturally attracted to the large numbers often associated with these groups. An example is the Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW). In its first 3 years of operations, it recycled less than 0.0004% of global plastic generated. 

2. Greenlighting

This is when companies highlight a particularly green feature to draw attention away from environmentally damaging activities being conducted elsewhere. This is common in the fast fashion industry where brands will often highlight using recycled materials in their clothing but will adhere to a disposable approach where clothing is cheaply made and tends to fall apart quickly.

3. Greenshifting

This is when companies imply that the consumer is at fault and try to shift blame onto them while continuing to engage in climate-damaging activities. Shell’s ‘What are you willing to change’ and BP’s ‘Know your footprint’ campaigns are key examples. This is one of the easiest greenwashing tactics to spot and both campaigns mentioned above received backlash. 

4. Greenlabelling

Greenlabelling is when words such as ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘natural’ are used without any evidence to support their claims. 

Greenlabelling appears to be the most pervasive form of greenwashing. It can be difficult to make sense of the many environmental labels and initiatives out there. 

5. Greenrinsing

When companies change or shift their sustainability targets before they achieve them, this is known as Greenrinsing. They may announce a new ambitious goal to reduce its carbon footprint, but then quietly abandon or replace it with a less challenging one. Coca-Cola has repeatedly moved and missed its recycling targets.

6. Greenhushing

This is when companies underreport or hide their sustainability credentials to evade scrutiny. Being vague can allow them to appear greener than they are, without taking any meaningful action. 

How can you Avoid Greenwashing in your Business?

Here are some tips on how to avoid greenwashing in your business:

  • Know your facts: Do your research and understand the environmental impact of your product or service throughout its life cycle. Use credible sources and third-party certifications to verify your claims.
  • Be specific: Avoid vague or ambiguous terms and use clear and precise language to describe your environmental benefits. Quantify your claims whenever possible and provide context and comparison.
  • Be relevant: Focus on the environmental aspects that are most important and relevant for your product category and your customers. Don’t make claims that are trivial or misleading.
  • Be humble: Don’t overstate or exaggerate your environmental benefits. Acknowledge your limitations and challenges and show your commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Be creative: Use storytelling, humor, emotion, and visuals to communicate your environmental message in a way that engages and inspires your customers.


By following these tips, you can avoid greenwashing yourself and create a genuine and compelling green marketing strategy that reflects your values and resonates with your customers.

Do you need help creating genuine video content that aligns with your company? Get in touch to learn how we can help. 

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